Beijing makes a great academic leap forward

“From 1970 to 2010, the number of students enrolled in higher education globally rose by 500 percent, to 178 million from 29 million. Nowhere was this growth faster than in China. While in the United States the number increased 140 percent, in China, it rose almost 30,000 percent, and the country more than doubled its number of colleges. Of global total enrollment, China’s share expanded from nothing to 17 percent. For comparison, India’s share rose from 9 percent to 12 percent during the same period.

“It’s true that the quality of that education is still not top-notch. No Chinese universities are ranked within the top 100 institutions globally, according to the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. The government is investing heavily in improving quality, however, and there are now six Chinese universities in the top 200, up from none in 2003.

“Furthermore, the Chinese have invested in research links globally, and especially with the U.S. In 1993, China endorsed education abroad; more than a decade later, it began to subsidize large numbers of outbound students.

“As recently as 2005, roughly 60,000 mainland Chinese came to the U.S. for higher education; by 2012 there were almost 240,000. Mainland Chinese represent more than a quarter of international students in the U.S.

“These relationships also extend to research. China has become the top international collaborator for U.S. researchers. And by 2012, almost half of Chinese collaborations abroad were with Americans, Freeman and Huang have found.”

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